Tag Archives: Environment

Oil, Tar and the Irony of Life


The question oil haunts us like a cancer cell. We try to avoid it but it keeps coming back. It seeps throughout the bowels of the earth. We know its just dead things. A reflection or the past, or maybe our future?

We know something must be done to combat global warming and our over consumption; but we are unable to escape it. We have grown accustomed to our large homes, cars and the devices I am using as I type. So what are we to do? Movies Avatar or the shows Firefly talked briefly about our consumption; how we used up the Earth’s resources. Will it happen? I don’t know. I have to believe that we are better than that. Albeit, there was World War 1&2, the Korean War, Slavery, weapons of mass destruction, but I am off topic.

The question is oil, specifically the Alberta tar sands, is a good one. Yes the 1.8 trillion, or more, barrels of oil waiting to be used. The bitumen, or tar for a better description, is waiting to be “plundered”. Don’t kid yourself. We, as a species, are not ready to change. I am not here to tell you oil is all bad or even good. Think about it for a minute, or longer. How do you tell someone that they should ignore the mounds of money waiting to be extracted? Still thinking? Exactly, you don’t. You see we all have to face the fact that we are unable to change. President George W. Bush was correct when he said “we are addicted to oil“. We can talk about the environment but do we realize how ubiquitous and how far oil has come into our life? It’s everywhere! From the car you drive to the container you use. The chair you sit on or the stuff in your food. Can we change? Or do we really want to make the hard choices? What will our children say about us? Or will we leave anything to say?

Our addiction is massive, but life must go on. Humanity is an interesting species. We will adapt. We will continue to extract the “black gold” until its no more. Don’t kid yourselves, there is no quick fix. We just need to be better stewards and live in balance with the planet. When all is said and done I am sure we will find something else to consume or we will learn to live. Let’s hope there is something left, hence the irony. We run, we consume, we waste the dead things of life. What is oil, tar sands or bitumen? Maybe its just a reflection or what we are and what we will become when balance runs amuck. What do you think?

By: @iammannyj

Voyage to Pandora: First Interstellar Space Flight


Found this interesting video on YouTube. If you like science, space and our possible future, please enjoy!

Pandora is the idyllic blue world featured in the movie Avatar. Its location is a real place: Alpha Centauri, the nearest star to our Sun and the most likely destination for our first journey beyond the solar system.

The year is 2154. Our planet has been ruined by environmental catastrophe. In the movie Avatar, greedy prospectors from Earth descend on the world of an innocent hunter-gatherer people called the Na’vi.

You burb I burb we all scream for the suburbs


The Suburbs

Cookie cut lives in the suburbs

It’s a cookie cut life of mediocrity, welcome to the burb. It’s all the same, we love it and it’s nothing to absurd. Admit it, we were sucked into the dream; the dream of owning a piece of Canadian terra-firma and all that it means. You love the plastic playground and uniform styles. The box stores and endless cars scream out the word character. It’s perfect and fun! It’s lovely and glorious, isn’t it? We enjoy the hours spent in the daily commute; a life like this is a wonderful pursuit. We love, even more, waking up early to catch a GO Train; packed in like sardines, it’s all normal, we are not insane. We enjoy closing ourselves out from the world; shielded by our iPhone, Android, Blackberry and tools. Thank you fast food, easy meals, it’s all so divine. Yes, we live in the suburbs and our lives have never been better. It’s all so simple and pedestrian.

The worst environmental disaster in a century? Gulf Coast oil spill…


As we watch the effects of the inevitable oil spill transpire in the Gulf Coast we have to ask ourselves yet again, is it worth it?

Any ocean oil extraction process using a drilling rig has a risk factor attached to it. This risk factor is not a question of “if” but “when” will the disaster occur.

Just imagine the devastation that is occurring right now in the Mexican Gulf and ponder what such a catastrophe would mean if it happened here. A 5,000-square-kilometre oil slick sits just 80 kilometres off the shores of America and Mexico. How many innocent creatures has it killed? How long will the after-effects of such a huge contamination be felt?
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Government of Canada cancels the ecoEnergy Retrofit program


EcoEnergy RetrofitThe federal government is suspending a program which offered people financial incentives to have their homes evaluated for energy efficiency and then perform upgrades to improve the rating.

Under the ecoEnergy Retrofit program, homeowners could receive a grant of up to $5,000 to carry out energy saving improvements.

The program technically runs until March 31, 2011, but the government will not accept bookings for pre-retrofit evaluations after midnight Wednesday. Homeowners who have already booked an appointment, have completed an evaluation, or applied for re-entry into the program have until next year to apply for the retrofit grant.

On the program’s official website, the federal government said it was “committed to reviewing its energy efficiency and emissions reductions programs to ensure they continue to be an effective and efficient use of Canadian tax dollars.”

The Conservatives launched the ecoEnergy Retrofit program in April 2007. By 2009, the government had paid out $91 million to homeowners for more than 85,000 home retrofits.

Liberal MPP David McGuinty told the Globe and Mail newspaper the program had become too popular and, therefore, too costly.

“Here is what has really happened — demand tripled since 2007,” the Globe quoted McGuinty as saying.

The federal budget unveiled on March 4 included an additional $80 million for the retrofit program.

Many provinces, such as Ontario, match the federal rebates. Those programs are expected to continue.

For details from the federal government, see the link below.

Toronto Mayoral candidate Rossi plans on stopping all TTC Light-Rail (Transit City) Expansion


TTC LRT

New Light-Rail for Toronto

Have we learned nothing from history and the reasons why there is a lack of good public transit options in the city of Toronto? What about jobs for the people of Thunder Bay? Again, with another knee-jerk reaction we may loose all we wanted in the city of Toronto and public transit by electing Rossi. Remember, if this is the attitude we took in the past, we would never have had the full Bloor-Danforth line, Spadina extension or top-end of the Yonge line (even our network of Streetcars that make the city). In other words, if you think transportation is bad now, what do you think it would be like in the future?

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Rocco RossiToronto mayoral candidate pledges to make waves at city hall by banning bike lanes on major arteries and possibly quashing light-rail plan.

When Rocco Rossi vowed to banish bike lanes from major streets, the suit-and-tie crowd at the Empire Club event erupted into its most enthusiastic applause yet for the first real speech of the 2010 mayor’s race.

The line demonstrated that Mr. Rossi knows whom he’s after: right-leaning suburban voters fed up with David Miller’s city hall.

Mr. Rossi is promising to halt all but one of the city’s planned light-rail lines until he can review the project’s finances; to replace the Toronto Transit Commission’s board of councillors with private-sector experts; to create a region-wide economic development corporation; to sell assets, including Toronto Hydro; and to outsource city work in a bid to decrease the power of unions.

“Make no mistake, last summer’s city workers strike showed just how weak the city has become in the face of its major unions and how utterly without a plan we are to correct this imbalance,” the former Liberal fundraiser and businessman told a packed room at the Royal York hotel. “As mayor I will bring us back into balance by pursuing outsourcing and managed competition for certain city services.”

Mr. Rossi’s speech was unusual for making concrete commitments early in the marathon campaign, leaving his competitors 10 months to savage his proposals. They didn’t waste time.

“I’m glad to see he’s throwing out 1,000 ideas and seeing what sticks,” scoffed Joe Pantalone, the deputy mayor who is running to replace his boss. “But this is not a carnival we’re talking about here. This is a city that’s complicated.”

Mr. Rossi drew the most fire for suggesting he might halt the Transit City plan, even temporarily.

In his speech, Mr. Rossi lamented the delays and cost overruns that plagued the construction of a streetcar right-of-way on St. Clair West, but it wasn’t until afterward that he expressed his concerns about Toronto’s plan to lay 120 kilometres of light rail on dedicated lanes.

“I think there’s some real problems that have been shown by what’s happened at St. Clair and I think we’d be foolish not to have a deep and long look at that,” he told reporters.

Asked whether that constituted a moratorium, he replied: “On anything that we can stop right now, yes.” Only one Transit City line, Sheppard East, has broken ground so far.

“Mr. Rossi’s suggestion that he would freeze all new transit projects until he has reviewed the city budget would not only put countless constructions jobs at risk, it reflects a troubling lack of understanding of the city’s finances,” a senior member of George Smitherman’s campaign said. “These projects are funded almost entirely by the province, sometimes with federal help.” Mr. Smitherman, the former deputy premier, is the race’s early front-runner.

The centre-right voters Mr. Rossi is hoping to attract likely would have voted for former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader John Tory.

But Mr. Rossi will have to run a campaign vastly different from Mr. Smitherman’s if he hopes to make the leap from virtual unknown to mayor. For now, he’s casting his lack of elected experience as an advantage.

“It’s been over a hundred years since we elected a mayor who wasn’t already in elected politics,” he told the crowd. “Maybe, just maybe, that’s part of the problem.”

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Revolutionary plastic e-paper set to hit the high street


By Chris Laker
Last updated at 4:43 PM on 15th October 2008

The era of the traditional newspaper could soon be over as scientists launch production of a revolutionary electronic version – made out of plastic.

The e-reader is the brainchild of students at Cambridge University’s Cavendish Laboratory and will be developed by manufacturing plant Plastic Logic at a factory in Germany. The invention is due to hit the high street next year.

Each part of the design will be made from plastic and will be super-thin, as light as the average magazine and able to store and display documents.

Dean Baker, Manufacturing Engineering Manager of Plastic Logic, said the invention of the lightweight e-reader will also drastically reduce the waste that currently comes with the traditional product.

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Watching the Canadian election debate….


9:42PM: Interesting debate, but I have to say Harper is taking a lot of heat. The environment issue is “killing” him right now. I am not sure if he cares or he is assuming that since the economy is tanking, no one cares. Do Canadians care?

“Canadians care strongly about saving the planet but wrongly believe that many of their fellow citizens don’t”

Do Canadians really care? Or do we simply care about ourselves. What about our future and our children? Maybe we should just watch Wall-E a few more times? Dion just nodded his head really weird, I had to turn the channel to PBS, however “Palin has the weird smile, stop it!”…..Driving me nuts! Jack Layton looks so good in a debate.

“Palin has the weird smile, stop it!”…..

Tips to the leaders: Elizabeth May and Dion are not doing to bad. Jack Layton needs to get into the mix a bit more. Harper seems to be in sleep mode. I am not sure why he is taking this? BTW – Jack Layton is starting to perk up. Must be the coffee!

Winner for The Environment: Dion

9:51PM: They are talking about Healthcare now. Harper just took a cheap shot. “I still use the public Healthcare system to see a Doctor, however some leaders use private clinics”. Nice! Jack definitely did not like that one. I am not sure why? However, Elizabeth May looked some astonished and confused for a second. I think she was surprised! Elizabeth May just moved the discussion to talk about private clinics moving into Canada. Healthcare is not Dion’s strongest point. Too bad! He did really good on the environment. Harper’s monotone voice is killing me! Jack is going after Dion now.

BTW – Why is Gilles Duceppe in this debate?

Winner for Healthcare: Elizabeth May

9:59: Now they are talking about the Arts! Watch for fireworks! But Gilles Duceppe gets first dibs? “How do you recognize Quebec as a nation and make those cuts Harper”? Huh?

“Palin has the weird smile, stop it!”…..

Sorry, I switched channels. Pakin just asked “Are conservatives barbarians?“.

“Palin has the weird smile, stop it!”…. Oh my, Palin is doing an awful job. “McCain knows how to win a war!”. She did not even answer the question! Back to the Canadian debate…

Dion is not doing that bad at all. But they are still all ganging up on Harper. I wonder why Harper cut the arts funding now? Should have waited? Harper said “we are getting a bad rap”. But stop the monotone voice!

BTW – Why isn’t Gilles Duceppe running for Prime Minister? Stop trying to rip apart Canada. Run in all of Canada and force us to speak French.

Jack Layton got the last jab!

Winner for the Arts: Gilles Duceppe

10:11pm: Now they are talking about “Crime”! Should be strong for the conservatives. However, Elizabeth May sounds the best so far. However, Harper? Is that really you? You are concerned about young people and gangs. Do I see emotion? I think he is sitting too close to the Liberals. Gilles Duceppe sounds pretty good so far. Pakin is pretty rough on these guys! Elizabeth May hits it again. She is not doing bad at all. “Investing in Kids when they are young”. However, she had a weak shot at Harper. Oh Oh! Harper is talking about the Young Offenders Act. Jack just nailed him! Said that Harper is playing “Political Games!”. I am going to have a hard time picking a winner. Not too sure what the heck Dion just said or why he went down that road, but now everyone is yelling at one another.

BTW – Gilles Duceppe really looks good. He should have run for Prime Minister.

“Palin STILL STILL STILL has that weird smile, STOP IT!”…What the heck is Palin saying? McCain McCain. What is she talking about? Got to win the WAR? Oh! She said “I do not see a lot of progress with the Republicans” Who’s side is she on?…

10:24pm: Now they are talking about Afghanistan. Harper gets a chance to talk and says that we will be out in 2011. Gilles Duceppe just took a shot at Jack Layton and said “if Jack and the NDP had voted against the extension, the Canadian troops would have been moving out in 2009”. Elizabeth May seems to be the smartest one on this one. She is talking FACTS and HISTORY! We need to know what the HISTORY of Afghanistan is before making rash choices. Gilles Duceppe JUST NAILED HARPER!!! “Are you saying that you made an error!” WOW!!! He just brought SENATOR OBAMA into the mix! What the heck! Harper what does this have to do with OBAMA? Its like a school kid who says “he is did it first….”. I think he got backed up into a corner and did not like it. Dion is a non-show in this one. This has been all Elizabeth May and Gilles Duceppe! I think some will have a reason to vote GREEN this time!

“I think that Palin is making a closing speech. She is still talking War and Fear. War and Fear work well on the American public it seems? She seems to think that this is Mad Max, Terminator Salvation or the Watchmen movie.”…..

Winner for the Afghanistan: Gilles Duceppe and Elizabeth May

BTW – Gilles Duceppe could you stop trying to break up the Country?

Harper: “I WILL NOT RAISE TAXES!“. Hmmm! I think I heard that line before from Dalton McGuinty. Let’s see (1) Regan deficit, (2) Mulroney deficit, (3) Mike Harris deficit, (3) Bush BIG deficit,and finally (4) Harper, remains to be seen. I guess, under conservative policies, once you have cut everything, what is left?

http://www.thestar.com/News/Canada/article/467383

http://www.nupge.ca/news_2004/n08de04a.htm

http://www.ctj.org/html/debt0603.htm

http://www.geocities.com/thereaganyears/economicpolicy.htm

Wikipedia’s definition of a Carbon Tax


carbon tax is an environmental tax on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. It is an example of a pollution tax.

Carbon atoms are present in every fossil fuel (coal, oil and gas) and are released as CO2 when they are burnt. In contrast, non-combustion energy sources — wind, sunlight, hydropower, and nuclear — do not convert hydrocarbons to carbon dioxide. Accordingly, a carbon tax is effectively a tax on the use of fossil fuels, and only fossil fuels. Some schemes also include other greenhouse gases; the global warming potential is an internationally accepted scale of equivalence for other greenhouse gases in units of tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Because of the link with global warming, a carbon tax is sometimes assumed to require an internationally administered scheme. However, that is not intrinsic to the principle. The European Union considered a carbon tax covering its member states prior to starting its emissions trading scheme in 2005. The UK has unilaterally introduced a range of carbon taxesand levies to accompany the EU ETS trading regime. Note that emissions trading systems do not constitute a Pigovian tax because it entails the creation of a property right. Nonetheless, both taxes and tradable permits put a price on emissions, and that price is equal to all parties involved. Therefore, emission reduction targets are met at minimum cost.

The intention of a carbon tax is environmental: to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and thereby slow climate change. It can be implemented by taxing the burning of fossil fuels — coal, petroleum products such as gasoline and aviation fuel, and natural gas — in proportion to their carbon content. Unlike other approaches such as carbon cap-and-trade systems, direct taxation has the benefit of being easily understood and can be popular with the public if the revenue from the tax is returned by reducing other taxes. Alternatively, it may be used to fund environmental projects.

In economic theory, pollution is considered a negative externality because it has a negative effect on a party not directly involved in a transaction.

To confront parties with the issue, the economist Arthur Pigou proposed taxing the goods (in this case fossil fuels) which were the source of the negative externality (carbon dioxide) so as to accurately reflect the cost of the goods’ production to society, thereby internalizing the costs associated with the goods’ production. A tax on a negative externality is termed aPigovian tax, and should equal the marginal damage costs.

A carbon tax is an indirect tax — a tax on a transaction — as opposed to a direct tax, which taxes income. As a result, some American conservatives have supported such a carbon tax because it taxes at a fixed rate, independent of income, which complements their support of a flat tax.[2]

Prices of carbon (fossil) fuels are expected to continue increasing as more countries industrialize and add to the demand on fuel supplies. In addition to creating incentives for energy conservation, a carbon tax would put renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal on a more competitive footing, stimulating their growth.

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Will Canada’s oil boom be an environmental bust? The new global wasteland?


Alberta the new oil wasteland

Alberta the new oil wasteland

FORT MCMURRAY, Alberta (AP) — The largest dump truck in the world is parked under a massive mechanical shovel waiting to transport 400 tons of oily sand at an open pit mine in the northern reaches of Alberta. Each Caterpillar 797B heavy hauler — three-stories high, with tires twice as tall as the average man — carries the equivalent of 200 barrels.

Shell, which has 35 of the massive loaders working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, has ordered 16 more — at $5 million each — as it expands its open pit mines. And it is not alone among major oil companies rushing to exploit Alberta’s oil sands, which make Canada one of the few countries that can significantly ramp up oil production amid the decline in conventional reserves.

Shell, Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, Canada’s Imperial and other companies plan to strip an area here the size of New York state that could yield as much as 175 billion barrels of oil. Daily production of 1.2 million barrels from the oil sands is expected to nearly triple to 3.5 million barrels in 2020. Overall, Alberta has more oil than Venezuela, Russia or Iran. Only Saudi Arabia has more.

High prices — a barrel reached almost $150 last month and is around $115 now — are fueling the province’s oil boom. Since it’s costly to extract oil from the sands, using the process on a widespread basis began to make sense only when crude prices started skyrocketing earlier this century.

But the enormous amount of energy and water needed in the extraction process has raised fears among scientists, environmentalists and officials in an aboriginal town 170 miles downstream from Fort McMurray. The critics say the growing operations by major oil companies will increase greenhouse gas emissions and threaten Alberta’s rivers and forests.

“Their projected rates of expansion are so fast that we don’t have a hope in hell of reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Dr. David Schindler, an environmental scientist at the University of Alberta.

Oil sands operations, including extraction and processing, are responsible for 4 percent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, and that’s expected to triple to 12 percent by 2020. Oil sand mining is Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gases and is one reason it reneged on its Kyoto Protocol commitments. Experts say producing a barrel of oil from sands results in emissions three times greater than a conventional barrel of oil.

Worries about environmental damage have gotten enough attention that even the oil industry realizes it must tread softly on the issue. “Industry has to improve its environmental performance,” Brian Maynard, a vice president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said recently.

Questions about developing Alberta’s oil sands have seeped into the U.S. presidential campaign and the debate in Canada and the U.S. over keeping down the price of gasoline while still protecting the environment.

The Bush administration sees Alberta as a reliable source of energy that will help reduce reliance on Middle East oil. U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins said the oil sands will define the relationship between the two countries for the next 10 years.

“We are blessed by the fact that our friend and neighbor is also our number one supplier of foreign oil,” Wilkins told The Associated Press.

However, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s top energy adviser said oil sands emissions are “unacceptably high” and may run counter to Obama’s plan to shift the U.S. away from carbon-intensive fossil fuels.

“The amount of energy that you have to use to get that oil out of the ground is such that it actually creates a much greater impact on climate change, as well as using much more energy than even traditional petroleum,” Obama adviser Jason Grumet said.

Mining oil sands also was criticized by American mayors in a resolution adopted at their annual conference in June urging a ban on using oil sands-derived gasoline in municipal vehicles. They alleged the oil sands mines damage Canada’s boreal forest — boreal refers to the earth’s northern zone — and slows the transition to cleaner energy sources in the U.S.

John Baird, Canada’s environment minister, warned that Washington would lose energy security if it doesn’t take Alberta’s oil.

“If American mayors want to send their money to unstable, undemocratic countries in the Middle East instead of to Canada, that will be their call. If they want to pay a premium for Iranian, Saudi, Iraqi oil that will be their call,” Baird told the AP.

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Canada puts brakes on electric vehicles


Despite increasing local demand for zero-emissions cars and trucks and robust exports of electric vehicles, Canada will not allow them on its roads, lament manufacturers.

“It’s a daily embarrassment,” said Ian Clifford, president of Zenn Motor Company, which builds “zero emissions no noise” vehicles in Canada for export primarily to the United States.

“Even my employees can’t drive to work in a Zenn. It’s absurd,” he said of federal and provincial rules that forbid electric cars from being driven on most Canadian roads.

Clifford’s frustration is aggravated by the view that Canadians are increasingly concerned about the environment and are said to be eager to drive electric vehicles in this warming climate.

“We build the car in St. Jerome (Quebec) and ship them all south of the border,” where 44 states allow them, and some 45,000 electric cars are in use today, he said.

But Transport Canada says the vehicles made of lightweight metals and plastics are not safe to drive on Canada’s open roads, and would not stand up in a collision.

The regulatory agency has so far certified only five models as road-worthy, including the Zenn, and two others that are no longer in production, said Transport Canada spokeswoman Maryse Durette.

But most provinces, which have jurisdiction over the vast majority of roads and highways in the country, have balked at giving electric cars the green light, citing Transport Canada’s safety concerns.

“We found Transport Canada to be very hostile towards low speed electric vehicles,” echoed Danny Epp of Dynasty Electric Car in an email to AFP.

The Canadian company was recently sold to a Pakistani group which plans to move production to Karachi and continue exporting its vehicles to the United States.

According to reports, others allege political bias, noting Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government’s base of support in oil-rich Alberta province.

To date, only westernmost British Columbia allows low speed electric vehicles on its urban roads.

This week, Quebec in eastern Canada announced a three-year pilot project that would permit starting in July the Zenn and an electric truck called Nemo on its roads with posted speed limits of 50 kilometers (31 miles) per hour.

Manufacturers are hoping Quebec’s pilot may spur its neighbors to jump on the bandwagon and eventually make it possible to drive an electric car from coast to coast across all 10 of Canada’s provinces.

“We hope it will lead to changes,” said Jacques Rancourt, head of utility truck maker Nemo, based in Montreal. But the road promises to be uphill all the way, he said.

Despite their widespread use in the United States and strong sales, there are still technical improvements to be made, say experts, such as boosting the life of batteries used in electric vehicles to allow them to go further.

Hydro Quebec subsidiary TM4, which makes electric motors for the Cleanova electric car built by a subsidiary of France’s Dassault auto group, is working on a new more powerful lithium-ion battery for use in electric vehicles.

According to Quebec’s Transport Minister Julie Boulet, TM4 is also seeking to partner on the project with a large automaker, which she refused to name.

“The battery is really at the heart of the matter to get electric cars rolling,” said Hydro Quebec spokesman Flavie Cote. “We all want exceptional performance from a battery that doesn’t take long to recharge, at a low cost.”

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Toddler finds way to really green solar with green plants


Biosolar’s a toddler chronologically, just turned two years old in April. But they’re already publicly traded and they could stand tall in the expanding field of photovolataics, making electricity from the sun. The firm is based in Santa Clarita in Southern California, so they know about sunlight.

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